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John F. Kennedy
1917 - 1963

35th president of the United States (1961-1963), author of Profiles in Courage which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957

Book by John F. Kennedy
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Profiles in Courage (1998)
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Click here for an essay by John F. Kennedy
We must use time as a tool, not a couch.

quoted in Reader's Digest, Aug. 2000
If men and women are in chains, anywhere in the world, then freedom is endangered everywhere.

Oct. 2, 1960 - from a campaign speech
All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days... nor in the life of this administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

Jan. 20, 1961 - from his Inaugural Address
[Canada and the United States] Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder.

May 17, 1961 - from his address to the Canadian Parliament
It is an unfortunate fact that we can secure peace only by preparing for war.

1960
Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom.

Nov. 22, 1963 - from a speech he was planning to deliver to the Texas Democratic Convention on the day of his assassination
... a great university is always enlisted against the spread of illusion and on the side of reality.

Jun. 11, 1962 - from a speech at Yale University
I am reminded of the story of the great French Marshal Lyautey, who once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow-growing and would not reach maturity for a hundred years. The Marshal replied, "In that case, there is no time to lose, plant it this afternoon."

Mar. 23, 1962 - from a speech at the University of California - Berkeley
Wisdom requires the long view.

Mar. 23, 1962 - from a speech at the University of California - Berkeley
... the pursuit of knowledge itself implies a world where men are free to follow out the logic of their own ideas.

Mar. 23, 1962 - from a speech at the University of California - Berkeley
I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.

Apr. 27, 1961 - from an address to American newspaper publishers in New York
We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment.

Apr. 27, 1961 - from an address to newspaper publishers
... our success or failure, in whatever office we may hold, will be measured by the answers to four questions: First, were we truly men of courage--with the courage to stand up to one's enemies--and the courage to stand up, when necessary, to one's associates--the courage to resist public pressure, as well as private greed? Secondly, were we truly men of judgment--with perceptive judgment of the future as well as the past--of our own mistakes as well as the mistakes of others--with enough wisdom to know that we did not know, and enough candor to admit it? Third, were we truly men of integrity--men who never ran out on either the principles in which they believed or the people who believed in them--men who believed in us--men whom neither financial gain nor political ambition could ever divert from the fulfillment of our sacred trust? Finally, were we truly men of dedication--with an honor mortgaged to no single individual or group, and compromised by no private obligation or aim, but devoted solely to serving the public good and the national interest.

Jan. 9, 1961 - from a speech to the General Court of Massachusetts
The contractor will not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, creed, color, or national origin. The contractor will take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin. [emphasis added]

1961 - from Executive Order 10,925, the first official use of the term "affirmative action" according to Roger Clegg in "Beyond Quotas", Policy Review, May-June 1998
To paraphrase the old saying, 'Good news is no news.'

1962 - quoted in Parade magazine
A willingness to resist force, unaccompanied by a willingness to talk, could provoke belligerence -- while a willingness to talk, unaccompanied by a willingness to resist force, could invite disaster.

1961 - from a speech at Washington University
The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the nation's greatness. But the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable for they determine whether we use power or power uses us.

Liberty without learning is always in peril and learning without liberty is always in vain.

1963 - from an address at Vanderbilt University
When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.

Apr. 12, 1959 - from a speech delivered in Indianapolis, Indiana
In free society, art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the sphere of polemics and ideology.

Oct. 27, 1963 - from a tribute to American poet Robert Frost, delivered at Amherst College in Massachusetts
We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

1962
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility - I welcome it.

Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.

Unconditional war can no longer lead to unconditional victory. It can no longer serve to settle disputes. It can no longer be of concern to great powers alone. For a nuclear disaster, spread by winds and waters and fear, could well engulf the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the committed and the uncommitted alike. Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.

Sep. 25, 1961 - from an address to the United Nations
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

Man is still the most extraordinary computer of all.

An economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough revenue to balance our budget, just as it will never produce enough jobs or enough profits.

Dec. 14, 1962 - from a speech in New York
A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death.

... ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

Jan. 20, 1961 - from his Inaugural Address
Liberty without learning is always in peril; learning without liberty is always in vain.

May, 1963 - from a speech delivered at Vanderbilt University
The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.

There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.

A man does what he must - in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures - and that is the basis of all morality.

quoted in The Harper Book of Quotations by Robert I. Fitzhenry
Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free.

Jun. 26, 1963 - from his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech, delivered in Berlin after communists erected the Berlin Wall
Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.

The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to to the nation's greatness. But the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested. For they determine whether we use power or it uses us.

Oct. 27, 1963 - from a tribute to American poet Robert Frost, delivered at Amherst College in Massachusetts
Our task is not to fix the blame for the past, but to fix the course for the future.

When I became President, what surprised me most was that things were just as bad as I'd been saying they were.

Our privileges can be no greater than our obligations. The protection of our rights can endure no longer than the performance of our responsibilities.

Too often we ... enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

1962 - from a speech delivered in New Haven, Connecticut
A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.

Oct. 27, 1963 - from a tribute to American poet Robert Frost, delivered at Amherst College in Massachusetts
For of those to whom much is given, much is required.

Jan. 9, 1961 - from a speech to the General Court of Massachusetts
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.

Mar. 12, 1962 - from an address to Latin American diplomats
[After the Bay of Pigs fiasco] All my life Iíve known better than to depend on the experts. How could I have been so stupid, to let them go ahead?